Read an Excerpt
Loving in the Grown Zone
A No-Nonsense Guide to Making Healthy Decisions in the Quest for Loving, Romantic Relationships of Honor, Esteem, and Respect
By Zara D. Green, Alfred A. Edmond Jr.
Balboa PressCopyright © 2014 Zara D. Green and Alfred A. Edmond Jr.
All rights reserved.
Adulthood Happens: Personal Growth Is A Choice
In the Grown Zone, we differentiate between being an adult, and being "Grown." We recognize that most people view these terms as synonymous, but there is a significant difference between the two. All it takes to become an adult is to survive puberty; it is simply a matter of biological maturation—from infant, to toddler, to child, to tween, to teen, and then, adult. However, it is a mistake to view adulthood as the final stage of personal growth. Stopping at mere adulthood is the equivalent of arrested development, just as it would be if you stopped at any of the previous stages of maturation. The alternative is not something that just happens, but must be a conscious choice to continuously learn, grow and to increase your capacity to give and receive love throughout your lifetime. That is, to be Grown.
When pain, drama, unstable relationships, and self-destructive choices are recurrent themes of a person's life, there is a high probability that the person, regardless of their age, has not committed to personal growth. A sure sign is when a person keeps repeating the same drama (i.e. unplanned pregnancies, job firings, violent encounters, failed marriages, etc.), seeing life not as a result of their choices, but a series of things that happen or are being done to them that they have no responsibility or power to change. On the other hand, those who choose to be Grown accept and own the choices and outcomes of their lives, and proactively pursue learning and growth. They understand that "It just happened" is just code for "I made an adult choice without an agenda for Grown decision-making."
So what does a Grown decision-making agenda look like? Following are some of the key principles of the Grown Zone:
Though we are each unique, we are created with a common purpose: to grow (i.e. learn) and to love. Love produces growth, and personal growth increases your capacity to love. Anything that prevents your ability to love and grow freely is unhealthy for you. A healthy relationship is one in which each person is committed to loving, honoring, strengthening and supporting the growth of the other. This defines all healthy relationships, not just romantic ones.
Healthy relationships are about how you are being treated, not how you are being made to feel. It's about what and who supports and nourishes your capacity to love and grow, not just about what or who brings you pleasure.
Don't mistake being wanted or desired for being valued and loved. Learn the difference between being "loved" for what you look like, what you have and/or what you can do, and being loved for YOU.
You don't get what you desire or deserve in love or life; you get what you accept. For this reason, an uncompromising standard of self-love is critical to healthy relationships. Accepting responsibility for enforcing this standard is critical to your ability to not become fuquitable—vulnerable to deceit and manipulation. You teach people how to treat you by what you allow. Fail to honor, esteem and respect yourself and others will follow your lead.
All people should be required to prove worthy of access to your money, home, body and heart. That proof can only be acquired through time, investigation and observation; until then, your time and the pleasure of your company is more than enough. When seeking healthy relationships, time is always your friend; anyone who argues otherwise is not your friend. Watch, wait and learn, before committing your money, body, home or heart.
It is not your responsibility, nor is it within your power, to change, fix or control another person's behavior with your love. For example, a person not committed to fidelity on general principle, will not change for you.
Drawing clear, hard lines for what you will and will not accept is an act of love of yourself and others. Most of those who say they want to love you are not qualified to do it. It's your responsibility to set, share—and enforce—your standard. Failing to communicate that standard or allowing it to be violated more than once is to be a voluntary victim.
How you got here is not as important as what you do now that you are here. Grown folks are not limited by their past; they recognize that it is not a ceiling on their potential, but a foundation from which to grow.
They accept it—good, bad and ugly—and remain focused on making their next decision better. They own their past, but they do not let their past own them.
Your former self needs three things from you: compassion, forgiveness and acceptance; your current and future stability depends on this. There is no room for guilt, condemnation or shame in the Grown Zone. Instead of trying to fix, change or deny the past, self-love requires that you learn from it, while focusing on making your next decision better. Too often, we accept unhealthy circumstances because we believe that we can't do—or worse, we're unworthy of—better. In the Grown Zone, better is always available, because as long as we can breathe and learn, we can grow.
We will touch on the application of these principles in matters of life and love throughout this book, as we invite you to live—and love—in the Grown Zone!CHAPTER 2
To Find Healthy Love, Embrace Your Single Life
Are you unhappily single? Do you feel that something is missing from your life because you are not in a relationship? Here's a love note from the Grown Zone: Your happiness is not out there with the "right" person or "the one." It is within you. You are "the one." This is why Grown, healthy relationships and Good Love can only be built on a foundation of self-love. If you do not value life as a single person, it is highly improbable, if not impossible, that you will find happiness as a partner in a healthy relationship. To find healthy love, you must embrace and value your single life.
The purpose of single life is not to merely kill time until the next relationship. It is the time to focus on and cultivate your most important relationship: the one you have with yourself. Unfortunately, too many people buy into the romantic foolery that says life is less valuable and meaningful for single people than it is for those in relationships—even if those relationships are unhealthy. This notion is fed when relatives, friends and others ask "Why are you STILL single? When are you going to find someone? Why aren't you married?" and other questions that imply that a person is only single for an extended period because there is something wrong.
People who buy into this notion surrender responsibility for their own happiness, while waiting for someone else—that "special someone"—to bring it to them. In so doing, the disappointment and devaluation of living single become a self-fulfilling prophesy, as lower expectations produce a disheartening pessimism about single life. Eventually, this lends itself to the belief that life in a relationship—any relationship—is better than being single. And this leads to lowered standards, poor choices, and adult-andmessy foolery, as unhappy singles desperately seek someone—anyone—to bring them the love, happiness, joy, security and fulfillment they are convinced they are missing as a single person.
Here's the truth: It is not Grown to expect a relationship to provide what you are not committed to providing for yourself. The capacity for others to love you can never exceed the love you demonstrate for yourself. Furthermore, you don't attract what you want in relationships, but what you are. So if you want financial security in a relationship, you need to commit to providing that for yourself. If tender, loving treatment is what you desire, then you should be giving that to yourself as a single person. If you seek forgiveness, compassion and emotional safety in a relationship, you must be committed to requiring that of yourself in single life. If you want a relationship rich with fun, joy and adventure, then that is exactly the life you should be pursuing as a single person. On the other hand, if you are desperate and unhappy as a single person, you are neither qualified nor prepared for a healthy relationship and you will attract and choose anything but.
"Single" is the best status for everybody at some point in their lives. Be mindful not to feed inadequacies by making it a "bad" thing. Do not neglect yourself under the mistaken belief that your life should be put on hold until you find a relationship, and that it has no meaning or purpose without one. This means rejecting the notion that you are somehow less valuable as a single person than you would be if you were married or in a committed relationship. If your desire for a relationship is about filling a self-love void (or to secure the approval and affirmation of others, including parents, friends and relatives), it is not healthy. Neediness always leads to poor choices. You have a right to happiness; that right is not withheld or abridged by your single status. Stop waiting for someone else to give it to you.
The best way to prepare for enduring, healthy and loving relationships as a single person is to focus less on trying to find the "right" person, and invest more into personal growth, in learning to be your best you. When you have an active, healthy, and intentionally loving relationship with yourself, you are never by yourself. You will not pursue, engage or stay in unhealthy relationships out of desperation and loneliness, or due to the mistaken belief that you are "less than" as a single person. When you become the absolute expert on what is good and healthy for you, you train yourself to recognize who is ready, willing and able to meet that standard of care for you in a relationship. Even better, you are far more likely to attract those most likely to celebrate the life you've created and the person you've chosen to be as a single person. Such people happen to be your best candidates for a healthy relationship. By the way, any relationship that requires you to surrender the life you've created for yourself and the person you've chosen to be is not healthy for you, no matter how strong your feelings may be for each other.
A Grown, single person is happy, healthy and whole all by themselves. He or she does not seek and chase after relationships. Instead, they focus on living their best life and becoming their best selves, while remaining open to relationships that can enhance both. Grown singles do not seek and choose the best of what's available; they attract and sort according to what is best for them, according to an uncompromising standard of self-love.
The best way to prepare for a healthy loving relationship is to make the most of the personal growth opportunities presented by single living. No other person is the key to your happiness; you are the key. Others can only enhance or diminish what you establish. Commit to creating your best life as a single person. If a potential relationship does not enhance that life, you don't need it. Embrace your single life in the Grown Zone.CHAPTER 3
Signs That He Is Not A Grown Man
A significant proportion of unhealthy relationships are the result of the failure to differentiate between a man, who is merely an adult male, and a Grown man. Sadly, too many men were never taught how to be Grown (or worse, had role models who taught them anything but Grown manhood), and too many women don't know a Grown man when they see or meet one—or are too willing to settle for less, at least as a "placeholder."
One result is that many women fail to set and enforce a healthy, self-loving standard for relationships, instead accepting the best of the men available to them and trying to motivate, bribe, guilt or coerce them (using sex, affection, money and even procreation) into Grown manhood. The theory: If I love him right (or enough, or however he wants it, or more than anyone else has or can), then I can change him into the man he was meant/I want him/I need him to be.
The reality: You can't. Living in the Grown Zone means recognizing that it is not your responsibility, nor is it within your power, to change, fix or control the behavior of another person with your love. (And if you're counting on sex, even if you can put it on him better than anyone else can, that will not change established habits; it can only reward existing-including unwanted—behavior. Sex is a form of approval and affirmation, not correction.)
A man who is not Grown can't change for you. And a man who is Grown will only change for himself, out of a commitment to his own personal growth and who he chooses to be, not who you want him to be. By the way, attempting to manipulate a Grown man will result in his distrust, resentment and, ultimately rejection of you. So forget what you may have been taught, by your girlfriends, movies, books and even your mother, about using sex, money or emotional blackmail to get, keep and control a good man.
So rather than trying to take a "piece of man" and somehow make a whole one out of him, better to learn to differentiate between a Grown man and merely an adult male right from jump, before you even consider relationship options. First, take your time. How much time? As much time as it takes. Until you confirm that a man is a Grown man, it's best, as an act of self-love, to assume he's not. (And if you can't stand to wait, that's a sign that you still have some personal growth work to do.)
At first glance, there is little apparent difference between a man (merely an adult male) and a Grown man. Don't go by appearances; go by behavior over time (before you give access to your body, money, heart or home), during which you should be both observing and investigating his character, habits and track record. This is not an all-inclusive, exhaustive list, but he's not Grown if:
He does not hold himself accountable for the outcomes of his choices, but blames others and refuses to share responsibility. He's not Grown if he sees himself as a powerless victim: of women, of his upbringing, of discrimination, of society, whatever. Watch out for the man who has nothing good to say about his family, his exes, other women, other men or "them," and constantly talks about what "they" did or are doing to him.
A Grown man understands that it's not everyone else's fault. He blames no one (not even himself), but shares responsibility and is personally accountable for the outcomes of his choices, learning from and using his experiences (both good and bad) to make better decisions, fuel his personal growth and expand his capacity to bring value (love) to the lives of others.
He views violence as an acceptable and even desirable form of human interaction. This is not limited to those who engage in physical abuse, but also those who practice verbal and emotional violence, saying and doing things specifically aimed at controlling, hurting and/or punishing others.
In extreme cases, not only is violence a less-than-Grown man's preferred means of dealing with conflict, but he actually seeks conflict in order to create opportunities for verbal, emotional and even physical violence. When a man is always getting into arguments and fights—at work, with his family, at the club—that's a bad sign. And if you find that acceptable—or even attractive—that's an even bigger red flag.
A Grown man is skilled at avoiding conflict and adept at resolving it without resorting to violence. He is committed to creating and maintaining safe (including emotionally), secure, peaceful and healthy environments for himself and others, especially women and children. It's not that a Grown man won't or can't handle physical confrontation. (A great example is the professional football player who can engage in controlled physical violence for a living, but would never think of it as an acceptable form of conflict resolution away from the game.) It's just that he rarely—if ever—has to, and certainly takes no pleasure in doing so.
He is unable to control himself—or worse, sees no reason to. A man that does not control the urges of his own body cannot be trusted to honor, esteem and respect yours. (Those of you who think he'll treat you differently because you are the one he really loves/not like those other "hoes"/a Woman of GOD, think again.)
In the Grown Zone, we describe such lack of self-control, when expressed in sexual terms, as "penis-led." But it also applies to an inability or unwillingness to exercise self-discipline in other areas of his life, ranging from holding down a job, to managing his finances, to controlling his temper. If a man's conversations and track record are full of "what had happened was" and "but it wasn't my fault" stories, he is not Grown.
A king is never ruled by his appetites; a slave, always. A true king, that is a Grown man, rules himself (and that includes his libido), above all else. A Grown man does not "forget" to use protection (or assume that his sex partner has taken precautions), nor does he "accidentally" commit repeated acts of infidelity or domestic violence.
Excerpted from Loving in the Grown Zone by Zara D. Green, Alfred A. Edmond Jr.. Copyright © 2014 Zara D. Green and Alfred A. Edmond Jr.. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.